FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Life as a Widow

I bought a bike.

I bought this bike that I mount and ride fast down the road that winds to the shops in my condo community.  My children say, “Be careful.” I laugh.

“Do Not Resuscitate,” I tell them.

A few weeks ago, out on my Breezer and imagining I might take flight, I was exhilarated.  Until that label I carry intruded.  Widow. My wedding anniversary was approaching (would be 35 years).  Suddenly, I felt oxygen deprived.  I say this metaphorically.  Because I have too much energy.  And after pedaling up the hill, I entered the apartment, brailing my way through things that were supposed to be familiar.

Finally, I decided to try another round of grief therapy.  I called my insurance provider and asked for names of therapists in the area.  Tried the first on the list and heard, “The number you have reached is no longer in service…” I shaped my right hand into a gun, pointed it at my temple, and vocalized a shooting sound.

Later, sister Laura told me her physician recommended someone who accepted my insurance.  Someone named Gene.  A woman named Gene.  I called the phone number, wondering about this Gene, thinking the feminine would be Jean.

At the appointed time, I sat in the reception area, waiting and wanting to escape. A coffee table centered the area.  Oriental rugs covered the floor.  But the ceiling seemed to descend; the lights appeared to dim.

And as that room became darker and smaller, so did I, until I noticed someone walking towards the area where I was sitting, a tall, extremely masculine woman. I suspected she was transgendered. Yes, I’ve seen so many of the movies (favorite is the documentary, Paris is Burning).

Memory interlude:  Years ago, when my husband Charles and I were living in Nashville, we invited his slightly homophobic cousin and her more-than-slightly homophobic husband to visit for a Vanderbilt-University of Kentucky basketball game.  We decided to put Paris is Burning in the VCR after dinner one evening.  The next day, as our guests departed, hugging us goodbye, thanking us for the tickets to the game, and the hospitality, she said, “We even liked that QUEER movie.”  Charles and I laughed about this for years.

Back to therapy:  Gene—a woman, named Gene.  I was certain this masculine woman would be my counselor, and I was pleased.

I heard my name called.  By Jean, a very feminine female.  Laura’s doctor was correct with the pronunciation, not the spelling.  And, so, I entered Jean’s office for a mutual audition or something.   At the end of the hour, she said, “You use high comedy as a defense mechanism.”  And, then, “Are you comfortable coming back?”  I told her yes.

Later, at home, I thought:  I am a widow.   I will be a widow for the rest of my life.

I powered the laptop, going to Google and entering “widows”. There are more than 11 million in the United States.  On one site, I read:  “Widows mourn; widowers replace.”  My defense mechanism engaged its gears as I thought about the men I know who are my age and searching for someone 20 to 25 years younger.

I have no interest in remarrying.  There’s just no point.

But there is a point.

Being a widow is complicated.  Everywhere I look, I see couples.  Young and old.  The other day, when I was walking down the hill (the one that’s now my runway), I saw an elderly twosome, sitting on a bench, their bodies leaning together for maximum contact.  Had they been teenagers, someone might have said, “Get a room.”

And, so, as the fourth anniversary of my husband’s death nears, I’ve been writing the sadness.  Pouring it to the screen and printing.  I take some of this to “Memoirs” class, which I’ve been asked to instruct next fall.  My classmates like what they call “the honesty of my words” and that I hang my emotions off the ledge.

This week, I included these two paragraphs in the body of my composition:

I move away, push back my chair, and cup the face that doesn’t feel like mine in hands that seem foreign.  I touch eyebrows, push them up, then down, to be sure they move, and, then, I rub my cheeks as if to ask whose cheeks these are.

I think that this face is the surface of a clock, timing whatever it is that’s left—the minutes in a day, the days in a week, the weeks in a month, until a year has passed, two, three, four.  Who started that rumor that time heals?  Time is just a ticker of tocks and trickling tears for the bereaved, balancing weights and waiting for what’s next.

Yes, I can be miserable.

But I’m fortunate.  I’ve examined world stats and learned that there are approximately 245 million widows.  Many, whose titles were bestowed by war, are between the ages of twenty and thirty.  They have young children to raise alone, often in poverty.

So there.  I’m lucky.  I say this over and over.  “I’m lucky.” Each morning, I awaken to another day of choices:  one is the decision to have a big, wonderful life.  I can.  I know I can, as I proceed to what’s next.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Email: missybeat@gmail.com

 

More articles by:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail